Last Hurrah?

The third game of the preseason is the one that's most important for the starters because that's when they'll get the most playing time before the start of the regular season. But it's also a big game for some of the young players still trying to convince the coaches they should be on the 53-man roster. So which Dolphins players need to really make the most of their remaining opportunities?

Here's where we would start:

RB LEX HILLIARD — The 2008 draft pick has been very impressive so far in the preseason, but he's currently the fourth running back on the team behind Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and Patrick Cobbs and he needs to convince Tony Sparano and Company they should keep four halfbacks. He needs to continue his strong work because one bad outing and he might be gone.

TEs JOEY HAYNOS AND JOHN NALBONE — The Dolphins are likely to keep three tight ends on the roster, and Anthony Fasano and David Martin are pretty much locks. That means Haynos and Nalbone, the rookie fifth-round pick from Monmouth, are fighting for the last spot. And, yes, it might come down to the last two preseason games.

DE RODRIQUE WRIGHT — The former seventh-round pick has shown flashes from time to time, but not nearly enough to have guaranteed himself a spot on the roster. At this point, we've identified seven defensive linemen as being pretty much locks for the 53-man roster, and those seven would be Jason Ferguson, Randy Starks, Kendall Langford, Phillip Merling, Lionel Dotson and Paul Soliai. Tony McDaniel probably also will make the team, which leaves Wright on the outside looking in unless he really has a big game against Tampa Bay and convinces the Dolphins to keep eight D-linemen.

OLB ERIK WALDEN — We really like Walden, who's got some pass-rushing ability and a lot of special teams ability, but his problem is the Dolphins really have a lot of qualified outside linebackers. Think about it. There's Joey Porter, Jason Taylor, Cameron Wake, Charlie Anderson and emerging Quentin Moses. And that's not even mentioning Matt Roth, who remains a wild card in this equation. Walden very well might make the active roster, but he's also someone who can't afford a bad game.

CB JASON ALLEN — The last roster spot at cornerback very well might come down to Allen and Joey Thomas, and Allen's ability to contribute on special teams might give him the edge. But whatever edge he might have isn't very big, so he can't afford to get beaten too often against either Tampa Bay or against New Orleans in the preseason finale.


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